Hemispheric Imaginings

The Monroe Doctrine and Narratives of U.S. Empire

Hemispheric Imaginings

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: 5 illus. Published: April 2005

Author: Gretchen Murphy

American Studies, History > U.S. History, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

In 1823, President James Monroe announced that the Western Hemisphere was closed to any future European colonization and that the United States would protect the Americas as a space destined for democracy. Over the next century, these ideas—which came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine—provided the framework through which Americans understood and articulated their military and diplomatic role in the world. Hemispheric Imaginings demonstrates that North Americans conceived and developed the Monroe Doctrine in relation to transatlantic literary narratives. Gretchen Murphy argues that fiction and journalism were crucial to popularizing and making sense of the Doctrine’s contradictions, including the fact that it both drove and concealed U.S. imperialism. Presenting fiction and popular journalism as key arenas in which such inconsistencies were challenged or obscured, Murphy highlights the major role writers played in shaping conceptions of the U.S. empire.

Murphy juxtaposes close readings of novels with analyses of nonfiction texts. From uncovering the literary inspirations for the Monroe Doctrine itself to tracing visions of hemispheric unity and transatlantic separation in novels by Lydia Maria Child, Nathaniel Hawthorne, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Lew Wallace, and Richard Harding Davis, she reveals the Doctrine’s forgotten cultural history. In making a vital contribution to the effort to move American Studies beyond its limited focus on the United States, Murphy questions recent proposals to reframe the discipline in hemispheric terms. She warns that to do so risks replicating the Monroe Doctrine’s proprietary claim to isolate the Americas from the rest of the world.


“[A] novel and provocative thesis. . . . American Studies scholars will find much worth considering here.”
— Amy S. Greenberg, The Americas

“[A] solid and imaginative work. I believe historians especially will find that it opens new doors and posits new ways of looking at an old topic.” — Mark S. Joy, Canadian Journal of History

“[T]his is an interesting and innovative book. . . . Hemispheric Imaginings succeeds in broadening our understanding of the Doctrine’s significance.” — Jay Sexton, American Nineteenth Century History

“Gretchen Murphy’s skillful interweaving of the forms of diplomacy with the mores of domesticity . . . succeeds basically in placing the quintessential American foreign policy—the Monroe Doctrine—within the broader context of American letters and life.” — Alan Henrikson, National Identities

“Murphy . . . throws down the gauntlet by declaring that diplomatic historians have deliberately excluded culture from their debate and view it as an ‘unwelcome and irrational intrusion’ (p. 17). She boldly launches such an incursion in her work. . . . While we may debate the applicability of particular cultural works or phenomena to historical concepts or episodes, the dialogue should continue. And perhaps diplomatic historians and their field will be energized by the contest.” — John M. Belohlavek H-SHEAR, H-NET Reviews

“Murphy presents a rich and historically textured account of the Doctrine’s role in historically differentiated visions of the nation’s ‘location in the world,’ an account that demonstrates the importance of attending to hemispheric mediations or blockages to emergent formulations of a global American studies.” — Hsuan Hsu, Comparative American Studies

“Professor Murphy begins her study with references to comments on the Monroe Doctrine made by politicians and journalists at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The references are timely and indicate that the Monroe Doctrine is still a matter that can excite lively debate. For those seeking a fuller understanding of the historical origins and development of the Monroe Doctrine, Hemispheric Imaginings is most valuable in redirecting attention to the importance of the nineteenth century and its rich source material.” — Joseph Smith, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“To historians, this book offers an interesting example of the interplay among literature, foreign policy, and the construction of national imaginings. . . . This book is a welcome contribution to the field of transnational studies of the United States. . . . Hemispheric Imaginings provides historians of international relations new propositions to reflect upon.” — Ricardo D. Salvatore, Diplomatic History

Hemispheric Imaginings makes an articulate, original argument for the centrality of the Monroe Doctrine to the nineteenth-century imagination. Gretchen Murphy’s exploration of the cultural influence of the Monroe Doctrine, above and beyond its political effects, is long overdue.” — Kirsten Silva Gruesz, author of Ambassadors of Culture: The Transamerican Origins of Latino Writing

“In these times of increasing attention to imperialism, protectionism, and U. S. intervention around the world, Gretchen Murphy’s study of the political and cultural articulations of the Monroe Doctrine is not only welcome but also important reading. Murphy provides an insightful genealogy of how a ‘principle’ first affirmed by James Monroe came to be a cornerstone of American diplomacy and military action; at the same time, she provides a model reading of how an ideological concept was developed and sustained.” — Susan Jeffords, author of Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Gretchen Murphy is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

Introduction: Writing the Hemisphere 1

1. Separate (Hemi)Spheres: John Quincy Adams, Lydia Maria Child, and the Domestic Ideology of the Monroe Doctrine 32

2. Selling Jim Crow from Salem to Yokohama 62

3. Geographic Morality and the New World 97

4. Gringos Abroad: Rationalizing Empire with Richard Harding Davis 119

Conclusion: The Remains of the Doctrine 145

Notes 159

Bibliography 171

Index 185
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3496-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3484-2
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